Stock Up: Three ways to upgrade your pantry

Spice pods from Occo
Courtesy of Peter Garritano
Caption
Spice pods from Occo Courtesy of Peter Garritano

Credit: Peter Garritano

Credit: Peter Garritano

Upgrading the ingredients you keep in your pantry is an easy way to make better meals.

Lime sea salt from Hatteras Saltworks 
Courtesy of Daniel Pullen
Caption
Lime sea salt from Hatteras Saltworks Courtesy of Daniel Pullen

Credit: Daniel Pullen

Credit: Daniel Pullen

Lime sea salt from Hatteras Saltworks

Brian and Shaena McMahon, and their son, Declan, have been producing solar-evaporated sea salt off Hatteras Island, North Carolina, since 2015. The result is mineral-rich salt harvested in large, beautiful flakes. This is a finishing salt, the kind you want to sprinkle on your caramel-frosted cupcake, sweet potato fries or that steak right off the grill. We tried their lime sea salt, a blend that includes just a bit of organic lime peel. It would be perfect with any kind of seafood, but we enjoyed it on our morning avocado toast, and we can’t wait to sprinkle it on the season’s first local watermelon. The McMahon family also offers black pepper, lavender, rosemary and pecan wood-smoked flavors, as well as pure, unflavored sea salt.

$8 per 2-ounce pouch. Available at hatterassaltworks.com.

St. Croix  pure vanilla extract from the Vanilla Bean Project. Courtesy of Brian Geihl
Caption
St. Croix pure vanilla extract from the Vanilla Bean Project. Courtesy of Brian Geihl

Credit: Brian Geihl

Credit: Brian Geihl

St. Croix pure vanilla extract from the Vanilla Bean Project

Vanilla extract is one of those ingredients that some find easy to dismiss. But, once you’ve tried pure vanilla extract made with care from real vanilla beans, you will never look back. Pure vanilla extract is made from the cured fruit (or bean) of certain orchids, and each bean must be harvested by hand. The Vanilla Bean Project, based in Lakeland, Minnesota, uses beans from Madagascar-grown orchids to make its St. Croix brand pure vanilla extract. Sara and Andy Kubiak began the Vanilla Bean Project as a way to support local grower cooperatives and women-owned businesses in Madagascar, where 80 percent of the world’s vanilla bean crop is grown. Their direct trade relationship with the cooperative supports women, families and communities. It’s a wonderful benefit for us that the extract the Kubiaks produce is so rich and fragrant. Their vanilla extract smells so delicious that you might want to sip it from the bottle, but don’t. Enjoy it in your favorite pastry and baked goods, and know that you are doing good while eating well.

$10.99 per 2-ounce bottle, $18.99 per 4-ounce bottle. Available from the Pantry at georgiasourdough.com and at vanillabeanproject.com.

Spice pods from Occo

“Try something new without committing to a jar you might use only once.” That’s the idea behind spice pods from Occo, founded by Lisa Carson and Connie Wang. Maybe you’re like me, and have a drawer full of jars of spices, purchased for a recipe and seldom used again. It’s unlikely the content of those jars will be used up before the spices have lost their punch. With Occo, based in New York and Connecticut, you can buy cards with half teaspoon pods of just one spice, like Kashmiri chile or Saigon cinnamon or Mexican oregano. Or, you can shop by recipe, ordering a card with recipe and seasonings from chefs like Atlanta’s own Asha Gomez. You’ll find Occo cards for several of her recipes, including seven-spice catfish tacos, acorn squash in coconut-pepper cream and Singapore noodles. Each card comes with pods of the spices in just the amounts you need for that recipe. There also are collections available, like the Burger Sampler or the Late Nite Koreatown Collection. Just browse by what you’d like to eat, then order. The recipes are available via QR Code on the package, and the spices come sealed airtight in aluminum pods. You easily can recycle the paperboard card and the aluminum pods (crush and insert them into an aluminum can, so they won’t get lost in the recycling).

Spice and recipe cards start at $5, with discounts for larger purchases. Available at eatocco.com.

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